Democratization moving throughout the globe has been gathering momentum. However, a lot would also depend on how well these thoughts and beliefs are propagated, to ensure a reach which is truly far and wide. A lot therefore, depends on the efforts of the media of today. Although it faces numerous challenges and obstacles in its developmental path, the media also finds itself in the midst of excellent opportunities, waiting to be leveraged. Already, developments like the inception of the first ever radio station in Liberia that was introduced in 1985 by USAID, has proved to be important landmark in its growth path. Although, sustained efforts by the media have been continuing, there is perhaps a need of hastening the speed at which advancements are being propelled. One of the prime avenues to be explored for maintaining the growth momentum would be the advertising techniques which stand the test of time. Such sustainable advertising tools can prove to be immensely beneficial for existing entrepreneurs as well as those who have just entered the market, helping both groups to come up with economically viable business models.
The Effect on the Journalism Industry
Journalism has probably been one industry which has probably been most affected by the ever pervasive presence of the virtual world. Today, we have more people hooked on to the internet and sharing profiles on social networking sites, than reading newspapers. This means, advertisers too have found new avenues for better exposure. Naturally, newspaper advertisements have declined with time, leading to dwindling revenues and escalating costs.
Clearly, it calls for an entire shift in the business model for the print media, for being able to leverage the local advertising opportunities to the fullest. According to the estimates put forth by MIT Tech TV, there is $30 billion worth of advertising business waiting to be accessed, locally! Therefore, there is no dearth of opportunities with respect to sustainable publicity and advertising techniques, for the journalism sector. However, it all depends on how innovative and experimental, existing and brand new leaders and entrepreneurs can get. The key to effective growth lies in out of the box thinking.
The Federal Agencies are also providing encouragements. In its 2011 report, the FCC has in fact asked the Federal administration to assess the positives of behavioural advertising as a sustainable concept. The associated negatives related to personal data protection and privacy maintenance have also been discussed. Some feel, that behavioural journalism would in fact call for a compromise on the basic principles of journalism. Therefore, it may not prove to be sustainable after all.
Innovative Approaches—A Case in Point
There are some innovative moves undertaken by certain well established entities in the print industry. Some of these can be discussed here for effective clarity. The first case in point is that of the New York Times. It has been experimenting with what is being termed as the Paywall System. The aim is to convert online readers into customers who would contribute to the revenue generation. Of course, the purpose is to enhance revenues. Although the concept isn’t a unique one and has been beaten to death a number of times, there truly is something innovative about the inherent objective behind it.
The business leaders driving this program were well aware that the pricing model of the NY Times was indeed a complicated one. Therefore, customers would hardly be able to comprehend the concepts related to it. That would make it all the more difficult to convert free readers to revenue generating ones. Therefore, what they did was, to link this free reading exercise with the advertising initiatives. Surfers, who logged into the website for reading the daily news, were welcomed with a special offer which allowed them to access the website free of cost for the rest of the year! In turn, they simply had to view the advertisement of the Lincoln Brand by Ford Motors!
This was indeed a foolproof strategy which allowed NY Times to accomplish all its objectives. First, revenues were generated through customers who would otherwise be visiting the site for free! Moreover, there was no risk of depletion of customer base as well. Plus, benefit was also passed on to the advertiser, whose products were widely viewed. In this specific case, Ford Motors might not be bearing the subscription costs for NY Times, but would instead increase its online investments when dealing with this particular publisher. The whole exercise has therefore, evolved into a self sustainable success story.
It has also prompted established entities like Guardian’s Dan Gillmor to comment, that NYT has certainly hit the success point. According to him, although the advertising concepts are a bit underdeveloped at this time, they would surely flourish in the near future. The escalation in the number of subscribers for NYT which has been estimated to hit the 250000 mark is a clear indication of the same. The “soft” Paywall concept has surely brought in some “hard” earned success for the printed daily.
Advertising Concepts—The Prevailing Trends
As per expert authorities like Don Carli, the associated issues with concepts like green washing and rewashing are actually misleading and could amount to negative impacts. Digital media is often compared to print media in the way it adversely affects the environment. This is because it involves usage of large energy volumes generated from coal plants, which is in fact more harmful to the environment. According to the Greenpeace estimates, the multiplying of data centres would in fact require as much electricity that is consumed by Canada, Brazil, France and Germany put together, by 2020! Similarly, coal demining would attribute to pollution levels of 1200 headwater miles in America! Therefore, people are being falsely implicated to opt for paperless options or are literally being forced to go paperless. The environmental considerations associated with opting for digital media, simply does not exist! They are just as harmful to the environment as the print media, or perhaps even more.
Therefore, the future appears to be a mixed bag. The Frankfurt Book Fair conducted a survey in 2010 where opinions were divided. 40% felt digital form would reign supreme by 2018 while 30% felt that printed medium can never be surpassed. Startlingly, 66% also felt that traditional printed books would always be dominating the markets at least through the next 10 years. That would indeed be a very long wait for any business model to take shape. What we need today is a unique concept which can blend profitable content creation with the cost advantages of mass manufacturing along with affordable devices and infrastructure.
The End Note
It is probably time to assess if suitable advertising drives can work towards reestablishing the fates of media enterprises and can lead the way for conceptualization of fresh advertising concepts, without compromising on the core values of journalism. It could be possible if companies held their core values to be supreme and the initiatives could be planned around them. The role of the government would also be largely location specific. Authoritarian governance may not be suitable for nurturing innovative concepts. However, the recent developments in Libya and Egypt have successfully proved that sustainable models of advertising can in fact generate political reforms. Similarly, they can also bring about economic reforms easily. This is especially the case since; larger economies of the world are ridden in debts. America also features in the list of economies which have been heavily under debt.
Answers can however be found in customised models. Privacy conscious readers could be exposed to limited content and the advertising drives could be targeting the rest. Such innovative practices could then help in salvaging the sinking fortunes of the print industry, by securing revenues and reducing cost implications in the process. Basically, a losing scenario can be effectively converted into a winning one, when you know how to implement you sustainable advertising plans.
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